About the Catalog
The mission of "The Woodblock Prints of Takahashi Shōtei" is to catalog all of his print images.
The images contained in this catalog have been gathered from many sources, including books, museums,
online galleries, and individual collectors.
There are as many as 750 print images to capture, and this effort may never be completed.
To my knowledge, this is the most complete attempt, so far, to accomplish this goal.
As of November, 2014, 594 prints have been cataloged.
I am convinced that building and maintaining a catalog raisonné as an on-line application is
preferable to the hard-copy approach of publishing a book for these reasons:
- Print images which were previously uncataloged show up from time to time and can be added to the catalog,
without have to wait until the "next edition" of the book.
- Clearer images or new information about previously cataloged prints can be added dynamically, in real time.
- It saves the cost of publishing a physical book, the effort involved in distributing it to collectors, and
the cost to collectors of purchasing the book.
- Since its inception in 2001, the on-line catalog has become a focal point for Shōtei collectors,
helping to create an interactive community where information can be shared for everyone's benefit.
I get lots of emails from collectors, all over the world, some of which lead to website updates,
either in this catalog or on other pages in the research sections of shotei.com.
In November, 2014, the format of this catalog has been profoundly changed by moving to a database-driven query approach.
Prior to this the catalog grew to 24 list pages, each containing 25 thumbnail images.
These pages were static.
To find a catalog listing for a specific print was potentially very tedious, with the user sometimes needing to look at hundreds of images.
The new format allows the user to specify filters to narrow the search-space, making access to the cataloged prints much more efficient.
For example, if you have in your hands a Shōtei print which features a bridge in a snowy landscape scene, you can use 2 of the 3
available "Keyword" filters, specifying "snow" and "bridge".
Instead of having to look at hundreds of images, your search-space is narrowed to less than 20 candidate print designs.
It's a very powerful tool!
History of the Database-Driven Approach
From 1982 through 2013, I pursued a career as an information system developer specializing in business database applications.
In 2006, I combined my passion for shin-hanga with my database skills to build the
"Shin-Hanga Seal Finder"
allowing collectors to efficiently identify artist or publisher seals on prints without needing to read Japanese characters.
Over the years, the seal finder app has become the single most visited page on Shotei.com.
When I retired at the end of 2013, I decided to become a print dealer, selling some of my own collection and providing a
venue for other collectors to consign their prints for sale.
With that in mind, I studied the available programming tools and produced my
"Shotei.com Sales Gallery" application.
Because I took the time to study the environment, the sales gallery is a much more solidly built database application than the seal finder.
This new Shōtei catalog works on the same basic software foundation that I developed for the sales gallery.
I expect to continue to use that foundation to develop more database-driven applications both for new projects
and for replacing the static pages of existing research projects on Shotei.com.
Old Catalog Available, but Only Temporarily
The old catalog, titled The (In)Complete Woodblock
Prints of Takahashi Shōtei
is now obsolete.
In building the new catalog, I have added 16 prints which were previously uncataloged.
These new prints are not included in the old static pages format.
Additionally, there were multiple print images which were clearer than the previous images and I have replaced them.
However, there are websites out there which point to pages in the old catalog.
In order to continue to serve those pointers, I will temporarily keep the old catalog accessible.
On June 30, 2015, the old static pages will be permanently removed from Shotei.com.
If you have, or know of, a website which is pointing to the old catalog, please do whatever you need to do to
make sure that that website is updated to point to the new catalog.
Your Help is Needed
In preparing to launch the database-driven version of the catalog, it was a major effort to specify keywords for all of the images.
I have found and fixed some inaccuracies and omissions, but I'm certain that there are more of them.
If you find any problems with the keywords, I'd like to hear about it.
If you are able to find any new images, or to add information, please let me know.
It would be nice to get color images of any prints which are currently in black/white.
In order to add a print to the catalog, here is what I would like to get from you:
- A digital image file (jpg is preferred) of the print which is at least 480 pixels on the longer side.
- A high resolution close-up view of the seal, title and signature.
- The dimensions of the image (not the paper) in centimeters.
- Any other information that you might have about the print.
Please get in touch if you've got any contributions for maintaining the catalog.
The catalog numbering scheme is based on on print size, with the first character of the catalog number indicating the size as follows:
- O-1 through O-50 are for oban (about 15" x 10") or larger prints published by Watanabe.
- O-51 + are for oban or larger prints published by Fusui Gabo.
- C-x are for chuban size prints (about 10" x 7").
- M-x are for mitsugiri-ban size prints (about 15" x 6").
- P-x are for pillar prints (about 15" x 3").
- S-x are for smaller size prints.
- ST-x are for smaller size prints published by Shōbidō Tanaka.
Within the O and M size groups, the order in which each print is listed in the 1936 Watanabe catalog is used for the
first prints in each series.
Within the ST size group, the order in which each print is listed in Shōbidō Tanaka's 1940 Globe catalog is used for the first prints in the series.
For all other prints the numbering order is arbitrary, determined by the order in which the print was added to this catalog.
Titles are tricky. There are many sources of titles, some of which are made up by people trying to describe the print.
Some of Shōtei's prints have a Japanese title above the artist's seal.
Many times, the title in Watanabe's catalog is completely different from the title on the print.
It is a problem for a cataloger to determine which title to use without being arbitrary.
This cataloger is guilty of being arbitrary.
For example, print M-56 has written in Japanese "Ugawara" above the Hiroaki seal.
Ugawara is a famous Japanese hot springs resort town.
Watanabe's catalog gives the title, "Woman returning from bath in rain".
Because the publisher's title takes precedence, the catalog title for this print is "Woman returning from bath".
Since Shōtei published mostly with Watanabe, he is the listed as publisher for all prints not known to have been
published by another publisher.
The sizes of margins can vary from copy to copy.
Therefore, for the purposes of this catalog, only the dimensions of the actual image is stated, not the dimensions of the paper.
The format is hh.h x ww.w where "hh.h" is the height of the print, in centimeters, and "ww.w" is the width.
There are quite a few prints in the catalog where the dimensions are not stated on the detail page,
because a reliable measurement, of the image only, has not been obtained.
If you are able to provide measurements for any of these, please do and they will be added to the catalog.
Year and Pre-/Post-Quake
The great majority of Shōtei's prints, even the oban ones, don't have a date.
For those that contain a printed date, it is included in the format yyyy.mm, where yyyy is the year and
mm is the month number.
For those prints which don't have a date printed on them, I've had to rely on various types of evidence.
- If a print is included in the 1936 Watanabe sales catalog, its date may be listed as <= 1936 which means that the print was
originally published prior to 1936 or in that year.
- If a print is not in Watanabe's 1936 catalog but is in the 1951 catalog, its date may be listed as >= 1936.
- There are records of exhibitions which took place prior to the publication of Watanabe's 1936 catalog.
If a print was listed as having been on display in one of those exhibitions, it must have been published
in that year or a prior year.
- Sometimes a print shows up attached as decoration for a calendar.
That's a solid piece of evidence that the original publication date of the print was prior to the year on the calendar.
- A collection with documented provenance
(i.e. the Weeks Family's 1910 Scrapbook)
can help to date the prints which were included in that collection.
- Prints which pre-date the September 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake may be listed as <= 1923.
- The catalog for the 2005 exhibition of Shōtei's works at the Folk Museum of Ota City, in Tokyo,
contains references to hundreds of prints.
For most of those prints, the curator of the exhibit, Shimizu Hisao, has assigned date ranges.
In the absence of other evidence, I consider this publication to be a reliable resource, and have used many of
Shimizu-san's dates for this catalog.
In the article "Pre- vs. post-earthquake prints",
I discuss some more strategies which can be used to date prints published by Watanabe Shōzaburō.
If you are looking for a specific print, there are too many cataloged prints to view.
The 9 filters toward the top of the screen can be used to narrow your search space.
Once you've set some filters, click on the "Find Prints" button to see the sub-set of prints which meet your criteria.
Be aware that the filters work with "AND" logic, meaning that any print which doesn't pass through all of the
filters will be eliminated.
The "Reset" button will set all the filters back to neutral, allowing you to try a different approach.